Fashion's Digital Future with Alvanon & MOTIF


Emily Lane, Bret Schnitker, Janice Wang


October 24, 2022


Emily Lane 00:00 

Welcome back to another episode of Clothing Coulture. Here we are in season two recording back at our corporate offices. It's wonderful to be back here, isn't it? 

Bret Schnitker 00:09 

Pretty wonderful? I mean, it's very early for us here, and it's late for our guests in Hong Kong. 

Emily Lane 00:15 

That's right. Well, we're very excited about this conversation. Today we're going to be talking about fashions digital future. It's a big topic, but we've got two experts. As you mentioned, Bret coming from Hong Kong to help us really break through all of that noise and the key areas we need to be watching the founders of 3D Tech Fest, which is a three day event featuring some of the most innovative fashion companies today, including Under Armour, and Karl Lagerfeld a favorite of mine. We welcome to our conversation, Janice Wang, who is the CEO of Alvanon. And Kathy Cole, CEO of Motif. Welcome, ladies, thank you so much for joining us. 

Bret Schnitker 00:57 

Good evening. 

Cathy Cole 00:59 

It's great to be here. 

Emily Lane 01:00 

Well, you just released an Executive Report. Oh, wonderful. We are so happy to have you. You just released an executive report based on the findings of the festival, which is appropriately titled fashions digital future, 3D Metaverse, excuse me, 3D says 

Bret Schnitker 01:19 

This is why editing comes in. 

Emily Lane 01:22 

fashions digital future, 3D Metaverse and NFT's. We are very excited to be the first to have this conversation with you regarding this report, which is absolutely fascinating. We're going to kind of take a look at those findings through this conversation. But first, why don't we have a little background into the two organizations? Janice, would you tell us a little bit about Alvanon. 

Janice Wang 01:46 

So Alvanon is a 20 year old body technology company. We're proud, we're focused on providing sizing and fit solutions for the fashion and apparel industry. Basically, were the science behind the art of a brand. And our clients include some of the world's largest and coolest brands, we basically help them determine what their sizes should be, and ensure that their supply chain has the right tools to make sure that all of these things work. Our most important tool historically has been the AlvaForm. And that's a physical tailoring mannequin that was basically as basically the same at the brand. And at their factory. We've always had a digital version, and which in the past few years, thank goodness is really taking on through our body platform. Because as 3D software gets much more widely adopted. So basically what we do is we consult we advise and we build and implement tech for the fashion industry. And the most important part about Alvanon is that it's really our company ethos, which is that all we can do is evolve. 

Bret Schnitker 03:03 

So that's all I've, you know, we've had a 15 year relationship, I think, with Alvanon. Remember, even as far back when we were jumping into our 3D technology 2011 or 12. You know, having conversations with Sharon at Browzwear, you had to have a scientific basis for fit. You know, when you're trying to fit in a virtual space and you're trying to put things on an avatar, it could be like Avatar, you know, seven foot tall blue at the tail. And you know, having Alvanon's inputs into that system very, very early in the process really gave us a great basis to understand and trust that as we were building forms and patterns in a virtual space, that can translate into the real world really effectively. 

Emily Lane 03:48 

We've been we've been longtime proponents of Alvanon and absolutely love the love the science that that you provide. It makes perfect sense that you formed another arm of your company Motif. Cathy, do you want to give us a little background into into Motif and how that came to be and and what you specialize in? 

Cathy Cole 04:09 

Sure thing. So Motif we are the only global online education platform that's dedicated specifically to the fashion industry. So we're a young company, we're only five years old. We were actually incubated inside Alvanon, but we split out in early 2019. And Alvanon is one of our main investors as well as The Mills Fabrica. So we provide the core of what we do is we provide educational content in the form of self paced courses, online courses, as well as blended training for professionals across the industry, who want to transform their own skills and careers, as well as companies who use our content for onboarding or upskilling employees. 

Emily Lane 06:24 

I'm also kind of excited to learn a little bit about the impetus for you creating 3D Tech Fest, you know, understanding that this was really founded during the peak of the pandemic, what was the inspiration to create this new forum? 

Janice Wang 06:45 

So we go to all these trade shows, right? And but then, as a company, really, you know, it's very rare for us to do our own thing, but because we know all of the players in the 3D space when the pandemic first started, which started off as like a series of webinars, and we said, well, you know, actually, would people really want to come and listen to what we've got to say. And the scary thing about it was it was just, it purely was an experiment acually. 

Bret Schnitker 07:16 

Experiments, don't they? 

Janice Wang 07:18 

They really do. It started off as this experiment where we just wanted to say, Okay, let's put out a webinar to see how many people come. And the first series of webinars we put out in March of 2020. Just to address the pandemic, I'd actually said, you know, we had, the first one had over like, 500 people attend. And I was like, what, that's every who wants to listen to a spiel for like, for 20 minutes? I have no idea who this is. But then we started to realize that actually, maybe there is a reason why somebody wants to connect, and there's a deeper connection, because looking for information and also opinions, right? So then, what we did was that we said to all of our 3D collaborators, of which, you know, Alvanon tends to be like, a little bit like Switzerland, we work with everybody, because we realize that our brand clients, they use different software's, they see different things, they use different vendors, right. It's not for us to decide who actually they use. So we said, hey, listen, everybody, let's come to the table. And let's just talk about what things we have. And what we've started to realize was that, hey, everybody's challenges are somewhat similar. And so that's what started the thought about doing the first 3D Tech Fest. And Cathy and her team, were amazing, because I don't think we could have done it without Motif is one of the things that we said, is that okay, so if we're going to do this, how do we, how's this? How do we archive this? And how do we distribute this afterwards? Because part of the issue is that the information of a, let's say, one webinar just last for a certain amount of time, that you either there, or if you want to come back and listen to it, then you want to be surrounded by other bits of information, which actually all the courses are supplementary to kind of the talking that we were doing with these conversations that we're having. And Cathy's team, very graciously actually worked, night and day to get us what we needed. 

Bret Schnitker 09:22 

Yeah, it's, you know, it's it's wild. You know, our technology in the world is moving at such a rapid pace, even in our industry. It is amazing. I always say adversity breeds technology. And we're seeing that in real time. During COVID I think there were a lot of horrible things that occurred during COVID. But I think as humans embrace the challenges that COVID had technology stepped in and help them find a way we've communicated a lot more effectively. I think one of the interesting key lines of the report that came out is that you know, real is becoming virtual and virtual is becoming Real, you know, there's so much of that that we're hearing on a daily basis and that conversation is accelerating. The whole conversation about Metaverse. You know, Facebook's just renamed Meta everyone's talking about Metaverse for our listeners that are out there that may have heard the term, but are not familiar with what Metaverse is. Can you fill us in on on the definition of Metaverse? 

Janice Wang 10:28 

The Metaverse means so many things to so many different people. And if only I could explain this thing, you know, because listen, six months ago, we had no idea what this was right? It just heard about web three. And I will tell you that I don't really understand any of it. But I know somebody who does, and that's Yat Siu of Animoca brands, and he's the CEO of it. And he actually gave a talk during the first or the third day of he was our keynote speaker for the third day of 3D Tech Fest. And if you want to hear like a professorial view of what this actually means for the whole world at large, I highly, highly suggest listening to that, that that one keynote that he get did, because he explains it extremely well for the the challenges that we're probably going to see coming down the line. But if I if I quote from Daniella Loftus, who was like this very young, very brilliant writer that we also had moderating some of the sessions. She says, you know, the Metaverse is really a shared communal virtual space that is very democratic. It's where people hang out. And I think tend to think of it like for us is like, watch your kids playing Roblox or Minecraft. And these kinds of worlds have their own culture. They, they have a sense of identity. And there's a lot of individual creative expression. But the whole key thing is, is it's democratic. And basically, this is the world that our digital natives have grown up with and will live with side by side, we possibly wouldn't understand it, but but they have. They definitely understand it. Yeah, we possibly. 

Bret Schnitker 12:16 

We get glimpses of it right, you know, pre COVID, Zoom was not something we'd heard of, right. Maybe we had Skype, and it was a you know, what, there was this evolution today, we're adopting Zoom as a normal form of communication. When you add the expansion of Metaverse that actually surrounds you, you're going to be in an immersive environment, there's going to be a full connectivity, you know, and technology's going to pave the way for that, you know, there's a lot of conversations about augmented reality that's come a long way. And I think the step into this, this, this digital landscape is a fascinating way that the world can connect, how do you see all of these digital transformations and, and I urge everyone to really take a look and dive into the report, because it's really fascinating. There's a lot more terms, etc, that that we've heard in the industry, and I think they, they dive into those, but how do you see this evolution really affecting, you know, the fashion business? As you see it today? What was the discussion? 

Janice Wang 13:21 

Well, actually, on the skill side, I think Cathy, you've got a lot to say about the skill side? 

Cathy Cole 13:29 

I'm sure Yeah, I think one of the key challenges of any 3D implementation actually skills are huge part of it, because the underlining underlying at all all of this, this disruption and change that's needed change in processes is people. So skills are a big, big part of this. And actually, with any digital transformation, I think, skills are a huge part of it. And what we're seeing in the fashion industry, is you still need the core technical, technical, fundamental skills, but then you also need this, we have this urgent need of a new blend of skills, with the software being able to use the tools being able to apply them and the struggle in these in companies is you now have the have people that are having to do parallel jobs at the same time. And when you're trying to pilot a new 3D DBC digital product creation process, there there almost has to be a parallel jobs that are happening during this this this new new way of working and there's got to be a transference of skills there. So that's just one of the the big struggles with with are one of the obstacles with any of this 3D sampling and 3d adoption is how to do that. 

Bret Schnitker 15:02 

Yeah, It's wild. I, you know, we've heard over the years that that future jobs that will be prevalent in the market are ones that we don't even know that exists today. And, you know, technology with with code, I think is compressed and accelerated that where I actually see that occurring. You know, in the fashion industry, you've got all the gulyas in 3D, you know, technology, we've got Browzwear, Optecs we've got CLO 3D, all of those different platforms are now becoming a heck of a lot more commonplace. Every day. Now I scroll through technology, and I'm seeing some amazing 3D designers that are creating amazing things in a virtual landscape. And, you know, that evolution now is animation, you know, how do we continue to make it more and more real for the client, and the steps toward animation, the scanning of fabric, you know, luminosity, drape gauge stitch, it's amazing when you're looking at these, at these creations that people have done. And I remember talking, you know, to Valentine, grabbing off, who's really dove into this, Oh my god four, in 2004, he really started working on 3D, and the evolution that 3D has taken over this time and the acceleration of that, you know, there's certainly a huge need for education on that platform. 

Emily Lane 16:26 

You know, looking at as progressive companies are, you know, really starting to embrace these other technologies, these digital technologies, what do you see emerging as a result of, of, in them embracing this digital virtual world. 

Janice Wang 16:44 

So I think there's pretty gonna be a few things, right, we're gonna see a, we're gonna see a digital version, we're gonna see a phygital version, and we're gonna see a physical version of offense. And like, so if we take that if we break it into those three things, we're actually going to see in the physical world, we're going to see all of this digital product creation, beginning to enhance and make the whole process much more efficient, efficient, right, because the process has been super inefficient for the longest time. But then what the key thing is, is that once you've created all of these authentic digital garments, as my brother calls them, which is their assets, right. And actually, part of the problem is, is that a lot of companies don't actually see these as assets, they just don't see these as things that they've just created somewhere. And, and archiving them and being able to use them down the change chain, to use it as marketing assets. And then actually switching that and saying, Hey, maybe we don't actually need to make these assets, we physically, we might actually just have this as a way to live inside a digital world. So it could be like a skin or a costume of your avatar who is similar to you inside a game that you're playing. And that's where you see all of this kind of NFT fashion thing pop up in a very large way is that because people want to own these things, and they want to own unique items they want to be, it's basically just like owning a very personalized, customized, you know, jacket, that's just for you. It's a Chanel jacket that you've you know, customized just for you. But it's actually for your game avatar. And if you're if you're working in both of these worlds, what you'll see is that they kind of interchange. And there are other things that we see, like when people are only using these digital garments for Instagram shots. So you don't have this view of where, you know, remember, a year ago, people were buying a lot from fast fashion, because you needed a different outfit all the time for your Instagram shot. Yes, you can wear the same, you can say the same thing twice. But now it's actually a digital version of you can't wear the same thing twice. So this is there is this sustainable element coming into it if what we care about is just our image, if that is you know, what you care about in terms of the the parsing of, of kind of what you what you identify how you identify as yourself. So we've seen different versions of the use case. And those will change by the way, they will evolve they will get better. But in an efficiency side, digital has been long coming for a very physical process. 

Emily Lane 19:31 

Some of these things just seem so futuristic, don't they? 

Bret Schnitker 19:34 

Yeah, I think I would be boring on Instagram. It'd be nine different versions of a black V neck sweater. So I don't think I'm the Instagram for there. But you know, you mentioned a comment about phygital. So, in all these conversations that have been coming up lately, the word phygital has been sparked, you know, put into our conversation at a more rapid pace. Okay, I'm gonna throw this out there. Can you define phygital? For our followers? 

Janice Wang 20:06 

There is a real definition to this actually. And this is the part that I really do need to editout, because 

Bret Schnitker 20:12 

Okay, go for it. 

Janice Wang 20:16 

Let's see, Daniela Aluctus did say this hold on. 

Bret Schnitker 20:20 

I just think everyone's talking phygital, and no one really sits down and has the dialogue about what phygital really means today. And I think it's a fascinating word. I say it, 

Janice Wang 20:30 

it's physical and digital. Yeah. Okay, so actually, okay, so I'm sorry, it's 10 o'clock at night. my brain a little bit fried. Phygital, actually, one of the things that tack the Taffy guys said is that Alvanon, funnily enough, was the original phygital player. And the reason why he said that is because you're actually taking something that is physical, and having a digital twin for it and actually making that you can use use one for one on both. And you can decide what you want to make, that actually one will turn into the other. 

Bret Schnitker 21:03 

That's amazing. And that's transformative in our industry, I think we, we, you know, as Americans, you know, being so egocentric as we are, we like to live in a microwave world, you know, it's accelerated by Amazon, everything shows up yesterday, and you order it, you know, immediately in in the world of fashion today, and apparel, supply chains are breaking down, we got all these challenges globally, for the with the physical part of manufacturing, the benefit that we can, that we can apply on two different fronts that you've mentioned is one, we can speed up decision making, using all of these technologies that exist on the front end, if we trust the technology, one of the big conversations we've had again, on previous, you know, podcasts is this technology just seems so good to be true. Right? Can we really trust it? And in the end, you know, a lot of the cases, many people find that they really can't trust it, speeding up that front end of that decision making, you know, tree helps the overall conversation and implementation and production. The fascinating part to about your conversation, is this move to an actual digital space. You know, you know Valentin, in one of the podcasts earlier, he always said, pixel, you don't find pixels on a landfill. And you know, it's the ultimate sustainable I guess, if you talk to carbon footprint, guys, there's probably a conversation, you know, in that deal versus proof of work and proof of stake. But, but I think it is an amazing transformation that we can actually have fashion and apparel living in two different parts of, of the world, digital, if you well, you know, living in a real space and living in a digital world. And they're kind of twins of each other. 

Emily Lane 22:48 

Absolutely. And, you know, I think both of both, you, Janice and Cathy have really kind of created this global community, whether it is this physical world or a digital world. And with that in mind, I'd like to know, Janice, what will you be doing with the future of allanon, you know, in relationship to this community. 

Janice Wang 23:10 

But Alvanon is always going to be the body platform for the apparel industry. You know, our aim is always to provide the most excellent tools for creators and brands, so that they can provide achieve their highest potential, both physically and digitally. That's our role in this, you know, our role is, is to be a behind the scenes player in this, so our community is the peak of the people who actually make and produce and create. And we're there to provide them tools. So that's Alvanon future. 

Emily Lane 23:46 

Wonderful, Cathy. We're about Motif. What do you see is the future for your community? 

Cathy Cole 23:52 

So our vision is to enable change in the industry, through education and continuous learning. So I think the beauty of what's happened over the last two years, despite all the difficulties is really opened people's eyes on the potential of virtual connections, virtual learning what I mean Motif had a tough time prior to the pandemic, because companies when they think of training, it's a trainer walking into a room with a group of people and walking out and trainings done. And really, with with recent advances in edtech, and the tools, there's so much we can do so that everyone in the industry is on a continuous journey. And I think that's the that's the the real goal here is we should all be continuously learning, technology business, it's everything's changing so fast that we all have to be continuously learning to stay on top of our potential and our game. So I think Janice would agree with me I don't think Motif or Alvanon want to be an event management company in any way. But we will continue to use these virtual events for us for motif, it's a way to tease out the content that that professionals in the industry need. And then we take that away what we learn from the festival. And we try to create great digital virtual learning content with that, whether it's self paced, or that can be delivered in a virtual format. So that's how we are going to use that the all the knowledge and expertise we gained from the events, and then we've got our eyes forward, we're always looking at new technologies and how we can apply them in education like VR, AR, it peer to peer learning, and I think that's, that's something we are constantly trying to build into our, our, our content is a collaborative peer to peer learning. And, you know, one more thing, when it comes to 3D, 

Emily Lane 26:09 

A wonderful vision. 

Cathy Cole 26:12 

I was just gonna say when it comes to 3D implementation, yes, there are some companies that are well on their way, but the majority industry is not so and they are struggling. They don't companies don't know where to start, how to start out pilots, they can't figure out, you know, the business case. We just heard from a company who said, Wait, I thought this was supposed to make bring down costs, and in the short term, and so I think companies are struggling. So Motif, we're here to help to bring kind of the fundamental technical skills and then constantly agile so we can bring new content, new learning experiences, for companies, individuals. 

Bret Schnitker 27:00 

Yeah, I think the timing too, is, you know, we keep referencing back to this COVID time period. But you know, when you're when you're secluded, I can only imagine those in New York, you know, secluded in a 600 square foot apartment, the shift to online learning became really important part of their day, you know, when you're in an office, and you're running back and forth, and traffic, and you never have enough time, you know, people might go visit a master class, or they might go visit an online learning site. We saw a massive increase in communication, community building, and education via online platforms during this period. I think once the mind has shifted, and they are recognizing the benefits of online learning, that Motif is providing they recognize the challenges in the evolution of the industry, I think, then you start to see this groundswell that that we're going to see continuing forward, for sure, 

Emily Lane 27:57 

Absolutely. Thank you so much for sharing this conversation with us it, we definitely are like minded, you know, the whole purpose of this podcast was with a similar nature, you know, share information and educate on all the facets of the industry and really love the vision that you've set out the community that you're creating, globally, and the education that you're providing, we will be providing a the full link to the report in our show notes. So please, you know, make sure to check that out. And also make sure to look out for future episodes of this podcast series as we are going to be having another conversation with each one of these amazing women, we're going to be talking with Cathy a little bit more about Motif, and really diving into their mission and and the future and of that organization. And, and then we're also going to have another conversation with Janice in the future about Alvanon. It has such a fascinating history, and we want to make sure that we get a chance to educate everybody about this amazing company. 

Bret Schnitker 29:04 

And huge fans and followers. I believe wholeheartedly and Alvanon's mission. 

Emily Lane 29:10 

Yeah, so thank you once again, Janice and Cathy for joining us. And make sure to subscribe to stay apprised of future episodes of Clothing Coulture. 

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Fashion's Digital Future with Alvanon & MOTIF